Why developers (maybe everyone) suck at estimates

I’ll be the first to admit that I feel like my estimating abilities are horrible, but today I did an estimate, felt confident that I did enough due diligence and amazingly enough, even with a bit of justified padding was viewed as a reasonable estimate.

So why after all these years of being a shitty estimator did it work out? Pretty simple, the time estimate was done at a start up not in Corporate America. See, in Corporate America, I never felt like my estimates were good enough. Know why? Because they never were.

Regularly, in my experience, estimates were just a waste of time, mainly because they were never used. There’s always some magical date that someone pulled out of their ass and said, “that’s when this needs to be done”. So why would I do an estimate? My time it better spent working towards an unrealistic expectation.

Don’t get me wrong, not every expectation is unrealistic, but when you (with a strong knowledge of not only your own skills and capabilities but with the system you’re working with) put together an estimate for 100 hours, and the so called “Project Management Professional” says that’s not acceptable and it has to be done in a 3rd of the time, what’s a boy (or girl… not sexism here) to do?

If you’re like me, you jumped to the conclusion that we’re bad at estimating. I’m calling bullshit at this point. There’s always gotcha’s but I think we’ve all learned to pad for that. Short of some grave situation arising, I think we’re better at estimating than we give ourselves credit for. What do you think? Have you been burned by a PMP that’s pushing a team to work within unrealistic deadlines so they can make their bonus?

Josh Sherman - The Man, The Myth, The Avatar

About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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